Centering on six black Toronto female impersonators, Edimburgo Cabrera’s “Divas: Love Me Forever” cuts a refreshingly broader thematic swath than most such docus, getting past the performances and personal stories to glimpse drag as an entrepreneurially serious (if narrow) pocket of legit showbiz. Feature will travel widely on the gay fest circuit, picking up some broadcast and vidcassette sales along the way.
The six spotlighted performers are a diverse lot (hailing variously from Jamaica, Guyana and Barbados, as well as the U.S.). Diana Ross specialist Michelle Ross has been a local and international touring favorite since 1974. Stephanie Stevens produces events in addition to performing. Duchess’ persona is that of a crazy Caribbean carnival queen. Matti Dinah presents a more androgynous, masculine-yet-feminine image than traditional drag. Chris Edwards is the sole subject who’s surgically been altered (chest). Jackae Baker designs his own elaborately “futuristic” costumes and has fashion-industry aspirations.
They all discuss issues including gender identity and AIDS, in pic’s intertitle-separated “chapters.” Most absorbing material, however, focuses on their status as serious-minded entertainment pros in a marginalized part of the biz that’s sometimes lucrative, sometimes frustrating. They stage lavish spectacles at huge circuit parties and cope with venues that provide little backstage support. As with every other realm of showbiz, everyday indignities (and frequent lowball pay) require smart, aggressive self-management. The impersonators’ differing response to these and other challenges lends “Divas” more informative depth than one might initially expect.
Notably, racial issues within the gay community are one terrain not given much consideration here. Vid-shot feature is succinctly edited and shot.